New library, community space will center Peaks Islanders

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PORTLAND — Years in the making, the newly renovated branch library on Peaks Island offers patrons a community gathering spot designed to better serve their needs.

The $915,000 project was a collaboration between the public and private sector and significantly increased the size of the original building, which was constructed in the late 1970s.

A formal re-opening ceremony, which includes food and family-friendly activities, will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, rain or shine.

“The renovated branch library will allow us to better serve the needs of our island patrons, from young readers building their literacy skills and adults researching job or housing options to anyone looking to feel a sense of belonging,” said Emily Levine, the development & external relations director for the Portland Public Library.

The Peaks Island library, which was being temporarily housed at the adjacent elementary school, is closed for the move, but will re-open on its regular schedule next Tuesday.

Now called the Kennedy-Carter Family Community Center & Branch Library, the building has been “transformed to serve generations of islanders to come,” the Portland Public Library said in a press release.

“With this project, we were aiming at much more than a building upgrade,” Levine said. The aim was to “meet the evolving interests and needs of the Peaks Island community,” while also allowing the Portland Public Library to “deepen our relationships with other Peaks nonprofits.”

With the new space, Levine said, the branch library can “host more joint programs that enhance the quality of life on the island and (that increase) accessibility (to) resources, technology and ideas.”

Another goal of the project was to “address ergonomic issues for our staff, particularly at the service desk, and to create improved work flows,” she said.

Most of the money for the project was raised privately, but the city also provided $250,000 from its own capital improvement fund.

Levine said a total of 375 island households contributed to the library’s New Vision Campaign and another $200,000 came from Kevin Carter, who wished to honor his parents Raymond and Cynthia Carter, as well as his grandparents

After a nearly 15-year effort to get the project off the ground, it received final approval from the City Council in May 2016 and construction got underway last September. While housed in the same building, there is a distinction between the community center and the branch library, Levine said.

Even so, she said, “We appreciate so much the way these associated spaces allow for flexible programs and activities that mean the Recreation Department can use library space and library programs can happen in the community room.”

“We are thrilled with the results,” Levine said, “and we can’t wait to have our patrons come in to really use the (new) space. We’re particularly excited about the new ‘island living room,’ (which) celebrates the library’s role as a place for everyone to come together and connect.”

The new space, Levine said, now provides the branch “with a dedicated adult reading area that is flexible enough to host book discussions or other programs, whether offered by PPL, our neighbors in the Recreation Department or by another island organization.”

“Like most folks, we held our breath heading into a construction project of this size,” she added, “but things have gone so smoothly. We’re delighted to report that the project came in on time and on budget.”

The project architect was Dick Reed, of Reed & Co. Architecture in Portland, and the general contractor was Great Falls Construction, Levine said.

“Both the Kennedy and Carter families have deep roots on Peaks Island, as well as ties to both the Recreation Department and the library,” she said, which is why it was important that both be recognized in the new name for the joint building.

Dorothea Kennedy, for example, taught art classes on Peaks through the Recreation Department and Cynthia Kennedy Carter started the senior adult recreation program for the city.

Kevin Carter and his brother, Greg, continued that family legacy through a third generation, with both working for the Recreation Department each summer while they were in college.

“We are deeply grateful to Kevin and his family for their commitment” to the branch library project, a Portland Public Library press release said.

Levine said next week’s re-opening “is an opportunity for Peaks to come together to explore and celebrate the renovated branch library and community room. There will be family-friendly food and drink, a few words of celebration and a ribbon- cutting.”

In addition, she said, “We’ll be sharing some of the library’s newly digitized Peaks Island archival materials, so there will be a wonderful pairing of the old and the new.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

A renovation and addition project at the Peaks Island branch library was more than 15 years in the making. The library is set to hold a re-opening celebration July 3.

With a $915,000 addition and renovation project, the branch library on Peaks Island now includes what library officials are calling an ‘island living room.’

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